Five Leadership Traits for Engaged and Empowered Teams

Photo by Wendy Cope:

Last week, I have been spending significant time getting clarity about the leadership traits that I value most. I have been focused on this is because I have been developing the leadership training that we will be offering across Computer Services in order to develop the traits that will create an engaged and empowered culture to elevate the effectiveness and happiness of our teams.

My executive coach suggested that I pay attention to what I value in the leaders around me and to narrow the number of traits to five. Being able to limit the number is important because the computer services team cannot focus on everything.

I asked for input from my senior management team and they listed many important and valuable traits. There were a lot more than five on that combined list. Narrowing the list has been difficult.

As I was wrestling with what was most important. I found that it was easier to describe behaviors that I wanted to stop and much more difficult to describe succinctly those traits that set apart the leaders I admire. I was struggling and started to feel quite overwhelmed and tired thinking about trying to accomplish the culture shift that the computer service staff is asking for.

At the bequest of my coach, I wrote a positive intention about the impact the Computer Services team would have if each member embraced the different traits. That exercise helped me hone in on the leadership traits that would be most impactful and left me excited, energized, and hopeful.

The traits that I settled on incorporated many of the attributes that the senior management team indicated were important to them. They are curiosity, positivity, collaboration, execution and integrity.

To be curious investigate, embrace new ideas, experiment, and learn from failures. To be positive view obstacles as opportunities and cultivate gratitude and kindness. To be collaborative actively engage others to craft innovative solutions and inform decisions. Execution is being able to get things done and hold ourselves and others accountable. To have integrity act with honesty, authenticity, transparency, courage, and respect.

These traits build trust, teamwork, flexibility, and confidence, which are important to the computer services members. As I have grown in my own leadership journey, these traits have been most transformative to me. To create a more engaged and empowered culture, I have relied on these attributes in my short time at Temple and am getting a lot of feedback that it is working. In the coming weeks, I will be taking time to describe each one of these traits in more detail.

Mastery of these traits is a journey, not a destination, but the journey for me has been amazing and fun. My challenge to you this week is to start noticing when you or others around you are displaying any of these traits.


Maintaining Good Habits

Shred Boot Camp CoreFitness, LLC. Picture take by Cynthia Brown. I am in the blue shirt on the left center.

I love to exercise and move and sweat. I often say I am desperately seeking endorphins! Getting a good workout every day, preferably early in the morning, is critical for me to have the energy I need to do my job well.

Two weeks after moving to Philadelphia, I was completely bored with biking, walking and doing yoga by myself. I knew that I was going to have to figure out something different to keep me motivated and moving.

In looking for a new exercise routine in Philadelphia, I examined my routine in Ann Arbor to figure out what about it had kept me motivated and engaged for many years. These are the things that I identified as important to me.

  • Friends: I have several friends who I had been working out with for years in Ann Arbor and was able to combine social time with exercise. In fact, because we are all so busy, it was often the only time that I saw some of my friends.
  • Variety: I went to two different studios and infused other activities in making up my routine. Although, I religiously went to each studio twice a week, the workouts varied each time, which kept it interesting and challenging.
  • Measurement: I was able to measure my progress and see my improvement. Whether it was watching my power output increase on the bike or seeing my fat body mass decrease, I could see my progress and that was motivating.
  • Instruction: I like having an expert guiding my exercise. I push myself harder when I have an instructor and I like learning to do the activity correctly to avoid injury and perform to my highest capacity.

On one of my lonely morning walks, I stopped and asked an exercise group that was working out near the Art Museum what they were doing and how I might join them. I am now in my third week going to boot camp a couple of mornings each week. This class has three of the four things that support my exercise habit. It has been great and has felt like my first step in finding an exercise routine that will be sustainable in Philadelphia.

One framework that I find really helpful when I think about how to establish or maintain good habits is the Influencer Model outlined in the book Influencer, The Power to Change Anything. This model outlines six areas of influence we need to pay attention to when we are trying to change. When I map the things I value from my exercise routine, they map directly to the influencer model.


  • Friends = Social Motivation
  • Variety = Structural Ability
  • Measurement = Structural Motivation
  • Instruction = Social Ability

I have the personal motivation and ability to exercise, but adding social and structural support by joining a class here in Philadelphia makes it much more likely that I will maintain an exercise habit that I really value.

My challenge to you this week is to think about how you might strengthen a habit you value by adding social or structural support.

The Gift of Being Fully Present

Photo by Celestine Chau -
Photo by Celestine Chau –

I just started my second month in my role as CIO. My focus has been on trying to get to know the people at Temple and on starting to build relationships. As I have been meeting with individual colleagues, I am really trying to be fully present and focused on the person I am talking with at that moment. I am not always successful, because it is easy to get distracted. I catch my mind wandering which can include looking around to see what else is going on in the room, thinking about my response rather than listening, checking incoming texts and calls, or running through the long list of things I need to get done.

I have to remind myself often that being fully present for the person in front of me is an unusual and impactful gift that will be remembered because it is so rarely given. I know because I remember when I have been given that gift.

Years ago, when I was in my weekend MBA program, I was given the assignment to interview a senior leader in my organization to find out about their leadership journey. I chose someone whom I had never met. He had transitioned to academia after a long and successful career in private industry and was well liked by those who worked closely with him. I don’t remember any of his specific stories, although they did involve worldwide impact with his medical research. What I do remember is how I felt after talking with him.

For a full sixty minutes, he was completely focused on me. He answered my questions and he asked me about myself, my background, my role in the organization and what I wanted to accomplish.  He gave insights from his own experience that might be of value to me in accomplishing my goals. He challenged and encouraged me. I felt valued and came away from that interview with a desire to be more like him as a leader. Even now, as I am writing this, I am filled with deep gratitude and emotion.

I am sure that leader does not know the impact he had on me. It was lasting, in part, because it was reinforced every time I encountered him, which I did with regularity. When I ran into him in the cafeteria or at a meeting, he displayed the same genuine interest and focus on me that I glimpsed the first time we met.

So, as I have been meeting all of the amazing people at Temple and in Philadelphia, I try to emulate that leader and be fully present and focused on the person who I am talking with. They can feel whether you are fully present and focused on them and it matters deeply. When I have received this gift of focused attention, I feel valued, energized, and motivated. When I am able to give the gift of being fully present, I get positive energy, great information, and good will; all which are invaluable to me as a leader.

My challenge to you this week is to be intentional about being fully present when you are interacting with your colleagues, customers, and family.  Notice what happens when you are more present.

Rituals Reinforce Values

As the new students converged on campus last week, I was thinking a lot about rituals and how important they are in reinforcing shared values as we try to integrate 5000 new students into the Temple family.

Selfie ConvocationConvocation was on Friday and it was the first one that I ever attended. The Temple New Student Convocation is a formal ceremony that welcomes freshman and new transfer students to the university. The faculty and officers of the university were in full regalia, which added gravitas and importance of the message, Since I am also new to Temple, it was an opportunity for me to see what values were being reinforced to the incoming students.

I was not disappointed. The core values that attracted me to Temple were exemplified throughout the ceremony. Accessibility, affordability, excellence, and community service are the heart of Temple’s mission.

The new Provost shared her story which exemplifies the values of Temple. She encouraged the students to reimagine their futures and be willing to take risks. One of my favorite moments was when she took a selfie of herself with the new students in the background.

The emphasis throughout the ceremony was on the students. The core values of making a positive difference in the world and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone were emphasized in story after story. Two current students and one recent graduate spoke and they were inspirational, encouraging their classmates to be fully present and invest in the Temple community. I spent most of the ceremony watching the students in the audience and was impressed by their enthusiasm and apt attention to the speakers. They were listening and ready to learn.

During the ceremony, the student president led the audience in the student pledge.

“As a Temple Owl, I pledge to uphold the highest principles of honesty and integrity in and outside of the classroom as founder Russell Conwell intended. I embrace Temple’s commitment to excellence, diversity and respect for the community; these values define my path. I take pride in saying, ‘I am a Temple Owl,’”

This was the first time I heard the pledge and because I had been thinking about rituals all week, was a clear example of how important they are in reinforcing values and setting the tone of an entire community.

Something for each of you to think about in the coming week. What rituals do you have in your team and at your institution and do they promote the values that you want to reinforce?